Auds go ga-ga for Disney goo

'Flubber' tops 'Alien' in holiday frame

Buena Vista’s Robin Williams starrer “Flubber” demonstrated the most bounce-per-ounce among Turkey Day contenders, sailing to an estimated $36.4 million over the five-day weekend.

The remake of Fred MacMurray’s 1961 comedy “The Absent Minded Professor” snapped up a projected $27.1 million for the three-day Friday-Sunday frame. In 2,641 laboratories, the pic averaged $10,261 per experiment over three days.

The weekend’s only other wide opener, 20th Century Fox’s “Alien Resurrection,” latched onto the No. 2 spot, devouring $27.2 million since its Wednesday launch. For the three-day frame, the fourth installment of the sci-fi franchise carried a $17.3 million payload in 2,411 missions, or $7,175 per flight.

Holiday B.O. even with ’96

The overall five-day total for $500,000-plus grossers was estimated at about $147 million. That’s virtually flat with last year’s Thanksgiving weekend, when Disney led the pack with another star-driven remake of a ’60s classic — the live-action version of “101 Dalmatians,” which dug up a record $45.1 million.

“Flubber” exit poll data was not available, according to BV distribution prexy Phil Barlow. But based on his observations at about a dozen L.A. area theaters, the film’s audiences consisted of roughly 60% families, with teenagers and even some childless adults making up the balance. Barlow said parents appeared to be opting to stay and watch the film with their kids, as opposed to dropping them off at the theater complex and high-tailing it to mall shops. The adult presence was probably due at least in part to Williams’ star power.

“We had the kind of well-balanced sprinkling among all demographic groups that indicates a good long run,” Barlow said.

Indeed, many observers give “Flubber” the best chance among November releases to remain a significant grosser through Christmas. By contrast, “Alien” is likely to see the kind of steep second and third-weekend drops which are typical of teen-oriented horror and sci-fi pics. If the falloff is in the 45%-50% range, as expected, the costly sequel could wind up with a domestic gross of about $60 million. “Alien 3” opened to $23.1 on Memorial Day 1992, finishing with $55.5 million.

‘Kombat’ casualty

Following a similar trajectory, last weekend’s B.O. champ, New Line’s “Mortal Kombat Annihilation,” plummeted to sixth place in its second outing. The videogame-based actioner grossed $7 million Friday-Sunday, down 58% from its three-day opening a week earlier. The sequel took in $9.5 million over the five-day holiday weekend.

Fox’s “Anastasia” dropped a notch to No. 3 in its sophomore weekend, with a three-day reign of $12.9 million, off 9% from the weekend before. The five-day gross was $16.7 million. The first offering from Fox’s $100 million Phoenix feature animation factory has cumed $32.5 million in its first 10 days. But the picture will soon begin to face pressure for screens as Christmas approaches and a raft of high-profile pics enter the fray. In smaller markets, exhibitors may begin moving the kidpic into matinee-only split engagements in the next week or so.

“The question is how early we go into split screens,” said Tom Sherak, Twentieth Motion Picture Group chairman, who declined to predict a final cume for “Anastasia.” The film, which Fox execs have said cost $53 million to make, appears on course to top out at about $60 million in domestic box office.

Sherak said the film was “a good first attempt in the lucrative field of feature animation.” He said it was unfair to compare “Anastasia” to Disney’s recent string of animated hits. “Disney spent a lot of years getting to where they are,” Sherak said.

Fox will offer a sneak preview screening of “Home Alone 3” with “Anastasia” late Sunday afternoon in theaters nationwide. The studio recently moved the opening of the sequel up a week from Dec. 19 to Dec. 12.

Sherak said he doubted the sneak preview would have much of an effect on “Anastasia’s” grosses next weekend. “It’s just a way of getting ‘Home Alone’ into the marketplace,” he said.

Universal’s family-oriented Tim Allen starrer “For Richer or Poorer” also bows Dec. 12, which is not traditionally a strong moviegoing day for families who tend to be busy with Christmas shopping and other holiday preparations.

Among specialized openers, MGM’s “Bent” opened to $126,000 in 12 theaters in nine markets since its Wednesday debut. The NC-17 pic grossed $89,000 Friday-Sunday. Miramax’s “Welcome to Sarajevo” picked up $88,000 in five sites in New York, L.A. and San Francisco. The three-day take was $66,000.

Fine Line’s “The Sweet Hereafter” grossed $83,000 in five U.S. theaters over the weekend. The five-day haul was $133,000.

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